MSU President Resigns Following Nassar Sentencing

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Embattled Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon resigned Wednesday in the wake of sports doctor Larry Nassar’s sentencing for abusing athletes under his care. 

In an open letter of resignation posted to MSU’s website, Simon said the last year and a half “has been very difficult for the victims of Larry Nassar, for the university community, and for me personally.”

Simon said she had planned to retire in December of 2016 but stayed on after an article appeared in the Indianapolis Star about one of Nassar’s victims filing a complaint with MSU’s campus police. 

As Nassar stood in a courtroom for over five days listening to the statements of more 150 of his victims, calls for Simon’s resignation grew. After Nassar was handed a sentence of 40 to 175 years, the NCAA announced that it would launch an investigation of MSU’s handling of the Nassar.

Simon said she was encouraged by MSU’s Board of Trustees’ support of her and insisted there was never any attempt by MSU to cover up the Nassar scandal. “I support wholeheartedly the Board’s decision to ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the events surrounding the Nassar matter,” Simon wrote. “This is an important step toward providing more assurance to the university community and to the public.  In the past, I have provided assurances to the Attorney General of my full cooperation, and I will continue to do so.”

From AB: How to Stop Sexual Abuse in Sports

Increasingly, media reports have turned to what more MSU could have done to stop Nassar from sexually assaulting between 200 and 300 student-athletes. Reports from multiple sources say MSU had heard complaints about Nassar as early as 1997 but waited until 2014 to actually launch an investigation into the matter. 

Speaking on NPR’s Up First podcast, Christine Brennan of USA Today, criticized Simon’s inaction as complaints about Nassar began to surface at MSU. “In 2014 she received a Title IX complaint, and word that there was an investigation, and this would be of course, of Larry Nassar, the man who did these horrible things to so many gymnasts, and she really didn’t have the curiosity to even go any further and find out what it was about,” Brennan said, noting that this was less than three years after Penn State was rocked by the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

Simon admitted to knowing about Nassar’s abuses as early as 2014. Nevertheless, Nassar was allowed to continue practicing at the school through 2016.

In light of cases like those at MSU and Penn State, many are now turning to ensuring that sexual abuse in sports is stopped for good. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, founder of Champion Women, which offers legal advocacy for girls and women in sport, has sent a petition to the House of Representatives, asking for the passage of the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act, bipartisan legislation that has already received approval from the Senate. 

According to the petition, which was signed by hundreds of athletes, coaches and sports organizations, the bill “makes it easier for victims to recover monetary damages against their molester. It also authorizes the U.S. Center for SafeSport; a fairly new centralized office, that will be formally responsible for investigations and sanctions against sexual abusers. It also removes any doubt that the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S. Code § 220501, et. seq. will not prevent a national governing body, like USA Swimming or USA Gymnastics, from investigating and sanctioning coaches found to have committed sexual abuse.”

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